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Millwall 2 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Tuesday, 26th December 2023 Kick-off 13:00
Very big in Sheboygan – Preview
Monday, 25th Dec 2023 21:45 by Clive Whittingham

It’s a relegation six-pointer for QPR at London rivals Millwall on Boxing Day – a rare post-Christmas win for the R’s would put them level on points with the Lions.

Millwall (5-8-10 LDLLDD 20th) v QPR (5-5-13 WWWDLL 22nd)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday December 26, 2023 >>> Kick off 13.00 >>> Weather – Nice day, sunny, mild >>> The New Den, London, SE16

Yes, you’re correct, I am writing Millwall previews on Christmas Day. No, don’t try and assure yourself I probably had all these done in advance and am just posting them up. A low point? Possibly, but please don’t stage the intervention just yet – I’ve done much worse, and there’s almost certainly new depths still to plumb.

A mixture of this Christmas’ fairly excessive fixture schedule (on which more to come in the Ipswich preview, which is basically written) and my plans for “#TheBigDay” meant sitting here, doing this, now, was pretty inevitable. I travelled north straight after the Southampton game, spent Christmas Eve writing that one up and cropping pictures, and that only leaves today before tomorrow and another game. It was also, in many ways, a desirable way to spend my time tonight.

The ongoing renewal and presence of Mrs Brown’s Boys in the Christmas TV schedules is a mystery to all. Certainly to me, and I suspect everybody reading this, because everybody I ever meet, speak to, listen to, read online, or hear of anywhere thinks it is an unwatchable dirge and possibly one of the worst television programmes ever made. Even the people I speak to in my day job in the television industry laugh at its notorious shiteness. Yet it sustains and perpetuates. It’s like that strain of super gonorrhoea that went round the student community in Leeds a while back – omnipresent, virulent, highly undesirable, impossible to get rid of, immune to all attacks. Genuinely it's a really tough choice between watching an episode of MBB on Christmas Day and puss oozing from under my foreskin.

Allow me to open a small window into life in my family Christmas back at home, where the television remote is kept under a lock and key, and any attempt to seize power of it and move the stations around a bit is treated as an act of war. There is a generation of people in this country who will literally sit and watch BBC One, hour after hour, day after day, regardless of what they schedule. Live raindrop racing from Tadcaster, the World Paint Drying Championship from Durham University, episode 326 of series 280 of MasterChef… if it’s on BBC One, they’ll sit and watch it. That’s why Mrs Brown’s Boys is still alive, and that’s the point we’ve reached now in my family home. Hour after hour after hour of Greg Wallace shouting about the time in the face of somebody trying to cook a venison shoulder – again. Will there be a skills test? Oh, you bet. Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this. Until tomorrow.

They have every subscription known to man in this place, mainly because they’ve forgotten about them and don’t know how to cancel. Only very occasionally can you persuade them to bounce onto one of the other 3,500-odd channels or on demand services that affords them. Step father is partial to the darts – he once made mother cry over the turkey by naming Barney’s Nine Darter as his greatest ever Christmas memory – and very keen to watch all the Tottenham games, so whenever one of those is on he sets off from BBC One (101) to Sky Sports Main Event (401) by pressing the Ch+ button 300 times. If you don’t let him know the game is on a good hour in advance you miss the kick off.

So, I’d clocked that Christmas Day on BBC One involved Strictly. Not even competitive Strictly either, not a final, or a competition, just Danny Cipriani mincing about for want of something better to do with his time. Then, worse still, Call The Midwife. Fuck me, you thought that 90 minutes at West Brom was bad, treat yourself to an hour of that abysmally-scripted, saccharine slop. Millwall previews were infinitely preferable, and so here I am, in one of the rooms where we apparently don’t turn the heating on any more, writing them.

It’s a big game. QPR jump started their season with three wins in a row at the start of the month, not only playing their way back into the pack at the bottom of the Championship, but also drawing a whole load of hitherto apparently safe teams back into the mire – Swansea and Stoke immediately panicked and sacked their managers. Sadly, one point from nine since then has seen a lot of those clubs move away from us again. We’d have gone above Plymouth had we beaten them at Loftus Road, now they’re five places and seven points away. Millwall are one of only two sides, along with Huddersfield, that are now still within one win’s reach. With a trip to Ipswich to come on Friday this one feels very important.

At the halfway point of the season it’s still very much about us. If you get to 52 points you basically stay up in this league, bar one or two extreme examples, so if we achieve that it doesn’t matter what everybody else does in the meantime. However, the belief and momentum brought by Marti Cifuentes does risk draining away fast if we repeat the failings of Plymouth and Sheff Wed against another team that’s in poor form and near us in the table. We’re 32 points away from that total with 23 games left, you don’t reach it by doing too many things like we did against Plymouth and Sheff Wed.

There was some optimism to be drawn from another improved showing against Southampton at the weekend. QPR were in the game, looked like they knew what they were doing, were half decent to watch, and felt together as a team in a way that simply wasn’t happening before Cifuentes arrived. The logic stands that if we play like that against less will remunerated clubs than Southampton, we’ll get results and be okay. Millwall is a great chance to prove that – no team has won fewer home games, only one has lost more at home, they’ve won one of 13 overall, they’re pretty pap. I’m nervous, though, and pretty downbeat about Saturday which was another one of those games QPR could have played for a thousand years without scoring a goal.

Without getting into all that fatalistic QPR stuff about always treating teams and players on bad runs, or bringing up our record on Boxing Day in recent years which is horrendous, one of the other annoyingly irritating things I’ve seen this team do a lot to us over the past two years is play surprisingly well, and come up just short, in a game where you thought they might get annihilated, and then regress back to their previous level straight after. They did it against Leicester recently at Loftus Road, where our Prediction League had scores everywhere up to and including an 8-0 away win but Rangers played surprisingly well and were perhaps a bit unlucky to lose the game 2-1. Oh, good, fine, play like that we’ll be alright – week later, fuck up a 1-0 lead at Rotherham, burn off another thee games without a win while only scoring one goal.

There have been undoubted, multiple improvements under Cifuentes. I don’t mind watching us now, I feel like there’s a grown up in charge who, given time, will rebuild this circus into something respectable. However, I still feel like Plymouth, Sheff Wed and Southampton, rather than blips or mistakes or unlucky meetings with superior sides, were us. They were us far more than the excellent performance and victory against Hull that went before them, which is a real outlier for this team. I feel like there isn't much more to come, results or performance wise, because Cifuentes is now basically doing as much as it is possible to do with this group of players. Others disagree, and see a team progressing towards other victories and salvation - particularly with a chunk of home games to come in January. Which side of the fence you’re on probably dictates how you came away from the Southampton game feeling.

Very different tomorrow, though. Millwall are poor, they’re in touch with us at the bottom of the league, their home form is dreadful, they hate a high press, their left back is slow as rust, nobody has scored fewer home goals than them… If the undoubted improvements under Cifuentes are to manifest in results, wins, and Championship survival, then, here, surely would be a great opportunity. And if not here, then where, and when?

Links >>> LFW memorial millstone – Interview >>> Wegerle, Barker score – History >>> Bramall in charge – Referee >>> Millwall official website >>> South London Press — Local Paper >>> News at Den — Blog >>> North Stand Banter — Forum >>> News Shopper — Local Paper

90s Football Conspiracy Theories No.20 In The Series – …

Below the fold

Team News: We’re obviously flying a little bit blind at this time of year with very little by way of pre- and post-match media flying around from either the club or the journos. Chris Willock left the Southampton game early with a knock that, while thankfully not his hamstring again, looked suspiciously like the sort of thing that will rule him out here. Morgan Fox and Jack Colback have disappeared into the ether, and Steve Cook didn’t even make the bench at the weekend. I’d be amazed if Paul Smyth didn’t start wide right against Murray Wallace here.

Millwall drew 0-0 at Stoke last time out in a dire encounter, so one would think senior strikers Tom Bradshaw and Duncan Watmore, or exciting youngsters Aidomo Emakhu or Romain Esse may push for starts here having been on the bench for that one behind Kevin Nisbet who had, to be fair to him, scored three in five before that stalemate after only managing two in his first 14 after a summer move here from Hibs. Another summer arrival, midfielder Casper de Noore, has been out since November and won’t feature.

Elsewhere: It’s a full Boxing Day of action in the Mercantile Credit Trophy with three TV games. Naturally, Leeds are one of those having been crowned champions by Gary Weaver at the weekend with a 4-0 home win against Ipswich – they start us off at 12.30 away at Preston Knob End where Ryan Lowe is circling the drain. Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham City v Stoke is the early evening game, selected for no other possible reason than the identity of the Birmingham manager. Then it’s the game of the day in the evening as Ipswich look to bounce back against their title rivals Leicester.

Very little of that really concerns QPR, who rather got away with their weekend loss to Southampton thanks to results elsewhere. Rotherham continue to absolutely tank, easily beaten by Leicester and surely not hoping for much better at home to Middlesbrough tomorrow even allowing for Boro’s extensive injury list. Sheff Wed missed a golden chance to haul us in even more at home to Cardiff, and now have a much tougher proposition away at Coventry. Huddersfield, meanwhile, were beaten again and now host Blackburn. Bar Millwall, who of course we face, it is once again starting to feel like three from those four, and that will only increase if we can’t put some wins together, starting tomorrow but certainly including a January where we play exclusively at home. A few of the clubs it felt like we were dragging towards us with three consecutive wins have now climbed away again after one point from the last three – Plymouth are away at Cardiff, and managerless Swansea go to Southampton after a late Friday victory against PNE.

There was further festive joy to be had at The Stadium of Light at the weekend, where Mick Beale’s You Versus Yourself journey turned into a him versus Coventry City massacre with the Sky Blues winning 3-0 in the North East in his first game in charge. The mystical PowerPoint presentation failed the acid test at Rangers, and the natives are already very restless ahead of a difficult trip to Hull City.

Two of the teams we were feeling very smug about tipping for lower midtable finishes against the grain in the summer, Watford and Norwich, continue to claw their way back from poor starts and can both start busting into the top six with wins over the festive period, starting with a home game against Bristol City and trip to West Brom respectively.

Referee: Fast tracked Premier League referee Thomas Bramall in charge for this one – he’s done a mixed bag of our 4-0 opening day loss at Watford and surprise 2-0 victory at Middlesbrough so far this term. Details.


Millwall: At half time on the final day of last season Millwall were in the play-offs. Leading 3-1 at home to Blackburn, and in the top six for the majority of the closing months of the campaign, you’d have fancied them as much as anybody in an end-of-season knockout that yielded a Luton v Coventry final at Wembley. After half time Blackburn scored three without reply to win the match 4-3, and the hangover from that has been considerable. Millwall, who we backed to go again on account of their decent 22/23 and summer recruitment drive that included the capture of Joe Bryan, are having a dismal year. They’ve won only five times, the same as us, and we will draw level on points with them with a victory tomorrow.

Manager Gary Rowett shook hands and left after four years with the club in October. His cautious/pragmatic/boring style of play had started to grate after four wins from the opening 12 games, and with talent like Zian Fleming regressing from 19 goals in 44 games last season to four in 24 this. Joe Edwards, formerly a Chelsea youth coach and briefly with the England U20s, was a left field choice for Rowett’s replacement but a 4-0 win at Sheff Wed in his first match made him feel like exactly the sort of breath of fresh air the club had been looking for. Instead, Millwall have gone on a run of seven games without a win (D3 L4), and that rampage at Hillsborough is now their only victory in 13 games. Six of those games have finished level – Millwall are always usually a good bet for a draw on your coupon and only two teams have drawn more than their eight so far.

Contrary to this ground’s reputation, they’ve been particularly abysmal at home. Only Blackburn (seven) have lost more than their six home games so far (Bristol City, Leeds, Swansea, Blackburn, Southampton and Coventry) and they’ve already been beaten 3-0 here on three separate occasions in addition to a 4-0 thrashing here by League One strugglers Reading in the League Cup. They’ve scored just nine goals at home, the division’s worst total. Nobody has won fewer than their two home games (Stoke and Rotherham the only sides beaten here) and they’re winless at The New Den in their last seven games here.

QPR: After three victories in a row, QPR have now taken one point from nine available and remain third bottom – two points off Huddersfield, and three off Millwall with an inferior goal difference. Sheff Wed are still four points back. The last time we were in the relegation zone in the second tier on Christmas Day was 2000/01 – the last time we were relegated from this division. Away from home the 2-0 win at Preston is Rangers’ only success in eight road trips.

Boxing Day is not a fun day for QPR in recent history. They drew 0-0 at Cardiff on this day last year in a game that would scorch your retinas if you looked at it for too long and, if you include games moved a day for TV like the 1-0 loss at home to Bournemouth the year before, QPR haven’t won or scored in their Boxing Day game for four years (0-0 at Cardiff, 0-1 at home to Bournemouth, 0-2 at home to Swansea, 0-1 at Reading). The last time they won on this day was a 3-0 against Ipswich under Steve McClaren in 2018 – our only Boxing Day win in 13 years going all the way back to the Taarabt masterclass against Swansea in 2010. We’ve lost eight, drawn three and won only once on Boxing Day since, failing to score on seven occasions, and scoring only once in four of the others.

Rangers went from 1990 to 2004 without sharing a league with Millwall, and were spared a traumatic visit here in the FA Cup in 1995 when Clive Wilson’s injury time penalty sent us to Old Trafford for a quarter final rather than The Den for a replay. When the fixture was rekindled in 2004/05 QPR didn’t win any of their first six visits to this new build, though should certainly have had a penalty right at the end of their first visit here which finished 0-0. Even Neil Warnock’s title winning R's lost here 2-0, one of only six defeats suffered through that entire season. More recently, we’ve done ok: two wins and two draws from our last five visits, including last year’s comprehensive 2-0 victory here when the hosts were seemingly too preoccupied with being ALL SAD about the Queen. Chris Willock scored in that one, and Rangers are still yet to lose any of the 19 games in which he’s done that.

Prediction: We’re once again indebted to The Art of Football for agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s newly extended QPR collection here. SilverFoxQPR fought off a great Southampton call by WestonSuperR to top our Prediction League at Christmas by two points, so Art of Football gear will be winging its way to him in the New Year…

This is one of those games I’d call as a QPR win if I was a neutral looking at it objectively from afar. We’re playing better than Millwall are, with more confidence, and what few strengths we have in our side do coincide with their weaknesses – they don’t like a high press, and Murray Wallace keeps getting exposed for pace in exactly the area of the pitch we like to send Paul Smyth. I have very little faith in this group of QPR players, though. I think they keep showing you what they are, mentally and ability wise. A full house at The Den, no real way of scoring goals, team on a long winless run… it doesn’t immediately scream QPR win to those who watch QPR a lot. I’ll stick a low scoring draw down, for fear of cursing it with a more optimistic call.

LFW’s Prediction: Millwall 0-0 QPR. No scorer.

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Burnleyhoop added 22:26 - Dec 25
Definitely on the side of the fence that thinks Cifuentes has polished this turd of a team up to a glossy sheen. But it is still a turd and capable of producing utter shite.

AgedR added 08:12 - Dec 26
The paras showing a window into your family Christmas might well be the highlight of mine this year.

It really is outstanding stuff Clive. Thank you.

AshteadR added 08:21 - Dec 26
Thanks Clive. Good teams have always got players that are better than the level they’re actually playing at. We’re the exact opposite

TacticalR added 12:58 - Dec 26
Thanks for your preview (and managing to find the time to write it over Christmas).

Yes, we could do with a win to restore our momentum and try and to get out of the relegation pack (I didn't realise our record on Boxing Day was so bad), but QPR struggle with expectation more than anything else.

Cayden added 16:30 - Dec 29
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